The Ghostly Hitchhiker is one of the most classic ghost stories of all time. It's certainly one of the first I heard as a kid. There's a lonely romance to the concept. Even though the story has seemingly endless variations, ultimately it stays the same, fixed as though trapped in amber. I'm never quite sure what brings me back to this kind of story, but whatever that unknown ingredient is, Seanan McGuire has tapped into it in a way that seems effortless. Following our Ghostly Hitchhiker, Rose, and her experiences on the ghost roads, this story is deceptively simple, beautifully written, and creeps into your heart and mind in a way that won't let go. There's an evanescence about it that haunts you, if you'll excuse the unintentional pun. At least, that's the effect it had on me. It's written as a series of encounters, like short stories, but similar to the interconnected webs of ghostly highway she walks, Rose's story becomes something far larger and more compelling than the sum of the parts.
This book is not a horror story. It's neither gory nor gratuitous. If you're looking for that, shoot for Clive Barker. This is the other end of the ghostly spectrum that addresses the human side of things. In the hands of a lesser writer, this would be sappy and probably turned into some cheesy teen movie. Some still might think it so, but I found it endearing and satisfying.
This is my first book from McGuire, and if it's anything to judge by, it won't be my last. Her writing style is lyrical without being excessive, the kind of thing that either comes naturally or not at all.
It doesn't tell you up front, but as the tips and tricks are offered and situations are examined, the usable information here becomes oriented towards sales. The idea is that everyone likes to buy, and nobody likes to be sold. Everything in this book is simple, effective, and easily usable, and you get better with practice, but the direct applications in the sales world for me was an unexpected bonus. The means to provide customer service, defuse hostility, and secure future sales most definitely offers a broader application outside of the sales world. Goodman's approaches to communication are timeless and can help you come across as effortless in using them if you're willing to commit.
Prof. Drout is an enthusiastic speaker, and his passion for the liberal arts comes through in this lecture series. His insights on how to connect the past to the modern world are thought-provoking, to say the least. Admittedly, he's already preaching to the converted on this one, but I always welcome a solid, concrete argument for preserving and studying the liberal arts vs. the somewhat ethereal and half-baked ideas I sometimes hear. If this is a topic you're inclined to look into, this series is most definitely worth your time and attention.
It's pretty clear that Romm has an axe to grind against the political right and especially against those who don't believe in climate change. It's his stock in trade, which he points out.
Looking beyond that, however, it's clear he's studied both the messages and the messengers to the point where he has weaponized the methods of rhetoric. The information comes at the reader hard and fast, but it's solid and instantly usable by anyone looking to improve their oratory capabilities.
As any reader knows, short stories are completely different animals from novels. The questions are: does James Bond work in the short story format, and can Ian Fleming write them?
The answer is a resounding "yes" to both questions. Turns out, I actually prefer Bond in the short story format so far. Who knew? There are 5 stories in this collection, and each one offers not only an intriguing story, but also offers some serious character development that extends past Bond himself. Fleming's standard fascinations with women, drink, food, cars, and guns are all on display, but there's also a more personal and reflective side offered here that might take readers by surprise. Each of the stories are deliver something different, and even the ones that start a little slow ramp up quickly and draw the reader in.
As always, Fleming's abrasive manner of reference in regards to women or minorities also comes through. It's a sign of the times that such things are noticed and improved upon, but new readers should always be aware of it.
The running gag in my reviews of these Bond audios is how the narrator says "007." Some say "double-oh seven," and others say "oh-oh seven." Thankfully, Samuel West says "double-oh seven." Beyond that, West is an excellent narrator and delivers a full performance for all the characters, and the subtle sides of Bond come across as natural.
On the whole, this is a good introduction to early music. It's not quite what I expected, however. I went into this with the definition of early music being limited to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, and while this book did encompass that, it also included Baroque. And that would be even better, save for the fact that most of the material herein was about the Baroque, and thus not the reason for me picking it up in the first place. Still, nothing wasted in that regard. The lessons can be applied all around. The ideas presented here regarding the recreation of early music are fascinating and complex. Once you wrap your head around it, it'll change the way you listen to and appreciate music of any kind. That alone makes this title worth it in my mind.
Anyone coming to this topic with no background and truly looking for an introduction should probably be aware that the information herein comes rapid fire. Vocabulary is defined, but once an idea is introduced, it's assumed you know it, and information is built from there. Newcomers will probably want a print version of this for that reason, and for the reason that the end of the book comes with a rather hefty list of bands, ensembles, and recording labels.
Following up on the story and success of The Plantagenets, Dan Jones now offers a book that I consider to be a public service for those just dipping into this subject. The Wars of the Roses is an era of great turmoil and upheaval, which means the players involved are many, and some of them switch sides as opportunity or desperation strikes. Most history books I've read on this subject either keeps it simplistic (in accordance with the propaganda of the Tudor era) or would have you believe it's so overly complex that only an expert can wade into it with any amount of confidence, and even they might need a score card to keep up. Most people I talk to who know anything about the era have learned from historical fiction. Fine and well as a stepping stone, but no novel can ever compete with the real story. The challenge is to find a book that presents it in such a way as to build the layers of intrigue and still keep it simple enough to read like a novel.
Like The Plantagenents before it, this book fits this bill. The scope and depth of this era are extended out even farther than many other books I've read on this, seeing this entire era as fallout from events in the Hundred Years War. Henry V's victory at Agincourt leads to Joan of Arc's rally of her people, and Henry V's weak and childlike successor to the English throne leads to... this story. Where other books drop the reader right in and let us fend for ourselves, Jones gives us the context and guides us expertly through this time to what will become the reign of the Tudors. The result is a fascinating and satisfying read for those inclined to read a story like this one. While this book stands alone, I personally found it to be a wonderful companion tome to The Plantagenents. I'm hoping Jones is working on a similar project for the Tudors next, being the logical next part of the story.
On a side note, for fantasy enthusiasts, this is the era that provides much of the historical inspiration for George R. R. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire (i.e., Game of Thrones). While there are no dragons or whitewalkers to be found here, the fact that people keep coming back to this well speaks volumes of how interesting this story can be given even a halfway decent presentation. For even the remotely curious, this is an excellent book.
Most vampire stories tend to stick to the standard tropes and clichés, and most of those try to convince the reader that they're different than the others by pointing out how they don't fall into the classic Stoker formula. This one falls right in line with that. Still, there are very few stories that I'm aware of that deal with a vampire's redemption, which is the entire reason I picked up this title. Curiosity won out.
As the opening paragraphs of the book suggest, this book is just the backstory for the character of Sophia, and the real story begins as this book ends. It leaves a lot of room for improvement and expansion. I felt like the whole of the story was rushed in the bid to get to the end of this leg of the journey, and there is a lot of it that lacks that professional polish. It feels more like something you'd read on a fanfic site. Even so, for what it is, I was entertained, and it's got enough promise that I'm curious about book 2, whenever it's available.
I got bitten by the Shakespeare bug a while back, and since then I've been working hard to understand the man behind the drama, and thus the drama itself. After several lesser books of background information, I discovered James Shapiro's Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, which put an end in my mind to the authorship debate. Prof. Marc C. Conner's Great Courses lecture series How to Read and Understand Shakespeare peeled back the curtain on the plays. Both of those titles were blessings on this road. This book does the work of both of those indirectly, putting the man in the midst of his setting and using his own work to help illustrate how he and his works developed side by side.
One of the interesting things about this book is that it calls up all of the points of refute used in the authorship debate and smooths out virtually every wrinkle without trying, in a manner akin to a scholastic aikido. Where little is known, the norms of the time and place are called forth in conjunction with lines and scenes from the plays or the poems, in some cases giving us double and even triple meanings.
Shakespeare not only emerges from this book as a fully-realized and considerably less romanticized individual, but so too do many of his contemporaries, as well as the locales, and the politics and turmoils of the age. I feel privileged to have found this book after so many fall starts and discouragements.
As narrator, Simon Vance is the ideal choice. Vance is consistently one of two tied in the #1 spot for my favorite narrator due to his clarity, eloquence, and ability to sound both enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the material. It feels as though he's not reading a book, but rather engaging in personal discourse about it... except, of course, where he reads chapter headings.
I just couldn't do it. I wanted to like this book, and I can't. On nearly every conceivable level as a geek, this book is offensive to me.
I've read the author's Star Wars and History, done in conjunction with Lucasfilm. It drew connections that aren't blatantly obvious and some that are downright esoteric (such as Leia's original "star puffs" hairstyle being drawn from photos of the Mexican Revolution). The result was an extremely satisfying read that appealed to both the fanboy and the history geek in me.
This book is the exact opposite, made worse by the fact that the narrator (I got it through Audible) is just plain bad.
Anyone who has ever seen any episode or film from any of the Star Trek series can readily identify the historical parallels because the very nature of Trek is that it draws from the culture of the time it was done and confronts social issues. That's a large part of what made it popular in the first place. The thing is, this book is presented in such a way that if you don't know the episodes by title, the short synopsis of the episode is given as nearly the complete case of the author. More time is spent on a synopsis than on drawing the parallels of history or pop culture that inspired it in the first place. Granted, with the Original Series, it's just not that difficult, and themes are repeated, but still... I expected some kind of depth. Any at all would do. As a result, this book is a dumbed down beating, made worse, as I said, by the narrator.
The narrator not only reads mechanically and sounds like her tongue is too big for her mouth, she breaks the #1 rule in my book: she can't even pronounce the name of the series. It's Star TREK, not Star TRACK. I've spent the first 40 years of my life giving non-geeks serious grief about this when they tried to use this show to tease me, back in the days when geekdom wasn't cool. Now that it IS accepted culture, it needs to be recognized that Trek has, is, and ever will be a cornerstone of that culture. Saying TRACK is not only wrong, it just comes across as stupid. I truly don't like saying it that way, but it's like I can feel the intelligence of the series being sucked right out of it... sort of like the new Abrams reboot version.
Oh well. Can't win them all.
With the previous book, the literary Bond began taking shape into the agent we generally think of from the Sean Connery films, yet remained very much distinctive as well. Despite the differences between the two versions, literary 007 takes huge (but subtle) steps to become ever closer his on-screen counterpart. More than that, Ian Fleming has found a new level of enthusiasm for his creation and has hit his stride as a writer. The adventure is one of a grand scale caper, the ladies are competent and can hold their own, the villain is one of the most familiar in the lexicon, the henchman is the most infamous in the lineup, Bond's got his Walther PPK, and he's (finally!) driving an Aston Martin (the DB3, not the iconic DB5 yet to be introduced in the film). All this, and 007 hits the ground running, having already killed a man as the book opens. In short, this is classic Bond. And it makes sense, since this book marks the end of the first half of Fleming's original novels.
While the story is extremely similar to the film version, there are differences that are fun to explore. Some are better, some aren't, but it's always important to remember Fleming was first. In this case, there are only 4 years between print and screen, so the differences aren't nearly so great as they are in the first few novels. It's amazing to realize how much culture and pop culture changed just in the decade of the 1950s.
Fleming gives Bond a vulnerable side, but never a sensitive one, and that reflects the writer as well. In past novels, his caricatures of race have been noted to be offensive to modern / more sensitive ears. While that's not much of an issue this time around, Fleming's regard for women hasn't been much better. This time around, the ladies in 007's life are, shall we say, somewhat "immune" to his charms.
Fleming's love of cars, food, drink, cards, etc. are all once again on display here, but this time around it all seems to be part of the cohesive whole rather than just side points that Fleming diverted towards.
The running gag in my reviews regards the pronunciation of 007, and so that saga continues. I'm beyond happy to report that Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville didn't let me down. At every turn he says, "double-oh" instead of the offending "oh-oh." Beyond that, Bonneville's performance is all-in, quite possibly my favorite of the narrators for this series so far. His Bond is just about perfect to my mind. He gives Felix Leiter his traditional Texas drawl without it being offensive to my Texan ears, be it a bit on the cartoony side. His mobsters are all straight out of the classic 30s and 40s noir films, which is a blast. While he clearly has fun with Pussy Galore, her New York accent sounds a bit more Deep South to me. And I certainly didn't expect him to belt out Oddjob's weird speech impediment quite so effectively. It's only one scene, but it's memorable.
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